Monday, 30 May 2016

John Henry Newman: The Liturgy and the Breviary, by Donald A. Withey

Donald A. Withey, John Henry Newman: The Liturgy and the Breviary; their influence on his life as an Anglican, 1992 Sheed and Ward, London

Blessed John Henry Newman has not generally been associated with the field of liturgy; he was not a liturgical scholar and it was not a subject that was central to his writings. Nevertheless, as an Anglican, Newman had a deep love for the Book of Common Prayer and supplemented it with the Roman Breviary, for which he had an abiding enthusiasm. This somewhat loosely structured book offers some biographical details as to Newman's interest in the Roman Breviary.

A good chunk of this book deals with Newman's that great unfinished project of the Oxford Movement, the translation of the Roman Breviary into English. There seems to have been some ambiguity as to the purpose of this translation. Was it to satisfy intellectual curiosity or to offer a resource for private devotion. If the latter, then it made sense to remove 'objectionable elements' in the breviary, namely the veneration and invocation of Mary and the saints. This was the position of some associated with the project. While seeking to use the breviary as a devotional resource, Newman strongly opposed editing and purifying the breviary, feeling that it should be translated in its entirety. The book also details the practice of the daily office in Newman's Anglo-Catholic community in Littlemore. It also contains some of his translations of Latin hymns and a list of his works on the liturgy.

The conclusion of this book addresses the overall impact of the breviary on Newman's development and conversion to Catholicism. Newman found in the Roman Breviary true catholicity as a living tradition. In Anglicanism, he could only find such catholicity in the abstract. This ultimately led him to embrace the Catholic Church.

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